Back formation (also known as retrograde formation) is a type of word formation in which a word is assumed to have a morphological structure (for instance, a root and an affix) that it did not originally have and is then decomposed. Often monomorphemic words are decomposed into a root and a affix if the language has a productive affix with the same phonological form as a part of the word that underwent back formation. The process can be schematically represented as follows:
- Initial morphological structure: (abcdef)stem; the language also has a productive affix with the form (ef).
- Morphological structure after back formation: (abcd)stem(ef)suffix.
For example, edit is a result of backformation from editor, sculpt from sculptor (decomposed as having the productive suffixes –or or –er used to build words denoting a person who performs the action denoted by a verb).
- Campbell, Lyle & Mauricio J. Mixco. 2007. A Glossary of Historical Linguistics. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press.